Not that well-known as a popular tourist destination outside of Wisconsin, the Fox Cities should definitely be on your radar as a new and refreshing hotspot to visit in the Midwest. Located along the Fox River in the east central part of the state, the Fox Cities refers to 19 charming communities in this region, that includes Appleton, the largest and most prominent, and a few along northern section of Lake Winnebago. But why should you choose the Fox Cities as a spot to visit in lieu of the Badger State’s more popular and far more famous destinations like Green Bay, Madison and Milwaukee? For starters, lodging and dining in the Fox Cities are much more affordable, traffic isn’t nearly as dense and it’s also home to a wealth of visitor attractions and outdoor activities, as well as very friendly local merchants and residents. While Lake Winnebago obviously has its own share of indoor and outdoor attractions, here is a closer look at seven of the best attractions in the Fox Cities of Wisconsin, including some that might come off as a world-class surprise.
Bergstrom-Mahler Museum Of Glass
165 N. Park Ave.
Neenah, WI 54956
Despite its marvelously picturesque setting that overlooks Lake Winnebago, the admission-free Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass only draws 20,000 visitors annually. However, this hidden gem in the peaceful city of Neenah is unquestionably worth the 7.5-mile trip from Appleton or even from larger Wisconsin cities like Green Bay, Madison or Milwaukee and elsewhere. First opened to the public in 1959 as the Bergstrom Art Center, the center is named after Neenah native and businessman John Nelson Bergstrom and his wife Evangeline, whose passion for collecting glass paperweights served as the impetus for establishing the museum in their Tudor Revival home and gifted to the City of Neenah. Today, the Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass holds the world’s largest collection of glass paperweights, with a significant portion from the 19th century. In all, its permanent collection holds nearly 5,000 objects, including dazzling contemporary glass, radiantly colored art glasses, and centuries old Germanic glass. The earliest Germanic glass piece dates back to the 16th century, as part of the Mahler Collection of Germanic Glass, donated by Ernest Mahler, first chairman of the museum and his wife Carol. Currently, the Museum of Glass is hosting the temporary exhibition “Reflecting Perspectives: Artists Confronts Issues Of Diversity And Inclusion” and runs through September 22. Additionally, the museum offers hands on classes in the studio for adults and youths ages 5-15 and Drop-In Days are held once a month.
Downtown Appleton Farm Market
333 W. College Ave.
Appleton, WI 54912
Known as the largest farmer’s market in the Fox Cities area, the Downtown Appleton Farm Market is held Saturdays inside the City Center Plaza through May, with up to 50 vendors. Hosted year round by Appleton Downtown Inc., the farm market really gets going in mid June, as the weather is noticeably warmer, crowds are larger yet manageable, and more than 150 vendors on hand to sell a variety of fresh local produce, meats, gourmet cheese and freshly baked goods, as well as unique arts, crafts and live music. Current hours for the Downtown Appleton Farm Market are 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and beginning June 15, from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Plenty of garage and metered parking is available near the center of the market at Houdini Plaza. Payment can be made through the city’s free Passport Parking App, available for iOS or Android devices. Additionally, the free Downtown Trolley is expected to resume in June and operate on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. between the Riverfront and Downtown, with multiple stops along the way, including the Appleton Transit Center.
Fox Cities Performing Arts Center
400 W. College Ave.
Appleton, WI 54911
Located in the heart of downtown Appleton, the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center is a state-of-the-art facility that hosts more than 350 events annually, including world-class productions of many of Broadway’s most popular shows. First opened in 2002, the performing arts center (PAC) features two separate theatres, with the 2072-seat Thrivent Financial Hall and 350-seat Kimberly-Clark Theater, as well as a Founders Room with accommodations for up to 75 guests and the exclusive Entrance 21 Luxury Suite, with prime amenities like a private valet entrance, a personal suite attendant and seating for up to 12 special guests. The facility also features a beautiful lobby with a rotunda and four-level atrium, as well as a grand staircase that leads to the theater’s upper levels. As one of the finest performing arts centers in Wisconsin, PAC is home to Broadway Across America, a Live Nation-branded organization that presents and produces Broadway shows. PAC is also home to the Thrivent Financial for Lutherans Education Series, Boldt Arts Alive series and the Fox Valley Symphony. Several upcoming events are in store, such as the award-winning “The Play That Goes Wrong” through May 5, Three Dog Night on April 28, Golden Boys starring Frankie Avalon, Fabian and Bobby Rydell and Chicago May 14. Later in the fall is Fox Valley Symphony Opening Night on September 21 and beginning October 1, the highly anticipated opening of the Tony Award-winning musical Hamilton, which continues to be one of Broadway’s hottest shows to see.
History Museum At The Castle
330 E. College Ave.
Appleton, WI 54911
Housed within a Tudor Revival structure, the History Museum at the Castle is a local history museum that shouldn’t be missed, especially for first time visitors to the Fox Cities area. Initially built as a Masonic temple in 1923, the museum was also previously known as Outagamie Museum and even more fascinating, the Houdini Historic Center, named after former Appleton resident Erik Weisz, immensely better known as the world-famous illusionist and stunt performer Harry Houdini. Despite the name change, the History Museum at the Castle continues to hold a very impressive collection of Houdini artifacts and replicas as part of the ongoing AKA Houdini exhibit on the second floor, with many hands on experiences and amusing photo opportunities. Currently, the museum is closed through April to install its upcoming exhibit in June – “GUITAR: The Instrument That Rocked The World”, which will feature a chronicled “history, science and cultural impact of the most popular instrument….ever”. The show will present more than 70 unique instruments and artifacts, including Chuck Berry’s 1960 ES-345TD, the Only Playable 8-Neck Stringed Instrument and the World’s Largest Playable Guitar, as well as 18 hands-on STEM interactives and 10 video displays. Last year, the History Museum at the Castle, led by Executive Director Matthew J. Carpenter and Chief Curator Dustin Mack, received the prestigious National Medal for Museum and Library Science award, the nation’s highest honor for institutions that make significant and exceptional contributions to their communities.
Mile Of Music Festival
Appleton, WI 54911
Held annually at various spots along a one mile stretch in downtown Appleton, the Mile of Music Festival is the largest of its kind in the Fox Cities. Presented by Fox Communities Credit Union and produced by Willems Marketing & Events led by CEO and festival co-founder Dave Willems, Mile of Music featured 200 artists over four days last year performing what’s billed as 100 percent original music, while drawing an estimated 80,000 attendees. Most of the more than 900 live performances from over 60 indoor and outdoor sites were admission free and among last year’s musical acts as part of Mile 6 were Philadelphia’s Mo Lowda and the Humble, Girl Blue from Albany, New York, Los Angeles-based Wilderado and Nashville-based country western singer Camille Rae. This year’s First 50 artists has already been announced and includes several new artists like Birds of Chicago (Chicago, IL), Carsie Blanton (New Orleans, LA), Freddy & Francine (Nashville, TN) and Goodnight Texas, (San Francisco, CA). Among the returning artists announced as part of the First 50 are the Talbott Brothers (Portland, OR), Lemon Sky (Cincinnati, OH), Sam Burchfield (Atlanta, GA) and Wild Adriatic (Glen Falls, NY).This year’s Mile of Music festival, also known as Mile 7, will be held this year from August 1-4.
Trout Museum Of Art
111 W. College Ave.
Appleton, WI 54911
Named after its founders Dr. Monroe and Sandra Trout, the Trout Museum of Art is one of the premier facilities for visual arts in the Fox Cities. With a prime spot along College Avenue at Houdini Plaza, the popular museum is operated by Fox Cities Building for the Arts, described as a collaborative business enterprise established in 2013 that manages and houses the non-profit museum and empowers other local community arts organizations. The Trout Museum of Art is currently hosting a Congressional Art Competition for high school visual arts students that runs through April 28. Upcoming exhibits include the 39th Annual Secura Fine Arts Exhibition, featuring art exhibitions from several of Wisconsin’s finest artists May 4-June 2, Jazz at the Trout series with vocalist Cynthia Bane and special guest pianist John Harmon and the “Fifteen Minutes” Homage to Andy Warhol June 13-August-26. Established as the Appleton Artists Guild in 1960, the Trout Museum of Art received Dr. Monroe E. and Sandra Trout’s art collection which includes more than 150 museum-quality works of art, in addition to a $1 million endowment to preserve, protect and promote the collection. Dr. Trout spent more than 40 years in the healthcare industry and his wife Sandra attended Appleton High School and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Wisconsin Timber Rattlers Baseball
2400 North Casaloma Drive
Appleton, WI 54912.
The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers are a minor league team and Class A affiliate for the Milwaukee Brewers of Major League Baseball (MLB). The Timber Rattlers home field is at Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium, with a seating capacity of 5,170 fans and affordable seating on grass. The family friendly stadium opened in 1995 and over the years, the Timber Rattlers have won nine league championships and several well-known MLB players and managers have spent time with the local team, including three members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Pat Gillick, Earl Weaver, Goose Gossage and Harold Baines, who will be inducted this summer in Cooperstown, New York. Additionally, five former members of the Rattlers were Cy Young Award winners, like Dean Chance and Sparky Lyle and three Most Valuable Players, including former New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez, former Baltimore Orioles star Boog Powell and former Minnesota Twins legend Zoilo Versalles. The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers 2019 seasons began earlier this month and runs through September. Additionally, the Rattlers will host a number of Theme Nights and Giveaways, with upcoming events like Fang Bobblehead with Girl Scouts Day April 28, Superhero Day 1 with Ant Man May 11, Pokemania Night with an appearance from the popular Pokemon character Pikachu and Star Wars Night June 22. Tickets to ball games start at just $9 for the grass seats and $21 for a Club Level Seat. Additional pricing options include All-You-Can-Eat Seats for $31 and VIP Suite tickets for 14 at $420.